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Health and safety for work quality (WOQUAL)

Research project TA/00/33 (Research action TA)

Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  D'HOORE William - Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/12/2007-30/11/2009
  • Dr.  BURNAY Nathalie - Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (FUNDP)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/12/2007-30/11/2009
  • Dr.  BRAECKMAN Lutgart - Universiteit Gent (RUG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/12/2007-30/11/2009
  • Dr.  VLERICK Peter - Universiteit Gent (RUG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/12/2007-30/11/2009
  • Dr.  ROBERT Annie - Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
    Not-financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/12/2007-30/11/2009
  • Dr.  HASSELHORN Hans-Martin - University of Wuppertal (UNI-WUP)
    Not-financed foreign partner
    Duration: 1/12/2007-30/11/2009

Description :


Over the past few decades, the nature of work has undergone significant changes. While traditional risks remain significant, new risks involving psychological stress and overload are becoming increasingly important. For example: (1) psychosocial risks resulting from the changing organisation of work including the advantages (flexitime) and disadvantages (work intensity) of flexibility, non-traditional work schedules, non-traditional work location (home work), and job insecurity; (2) the increasing difficulty to manage the interface between work and non-work situations, and the contribution of organisational changes and flexibility practices to work life / private life imbalance; (3) stress-related factors: effort-reward imbalance, aggressiveness and violent behaviours from clients, harassment from superiors and colleagues.

As a consequence, health issues at the workplace have become more complex. Firstly, the changing organisation of work and emerging psychosocial problems have potential effects on mental and physical health, future work ability and withdrawal from work.
Workers health is determined not only by occupational risks, but also by inequalities in vulnerability, which is linked to personal and social characteristics, such as age, gender and education.

General objective

The project WOQUAL focuses on the understanding of impact of emerging risks and vulnerability on workers health, in order to strengthen the basis to develop systematic and comprehensive policy strategies to improve workers health and work ability.

Specific goals and objectives

(1) To review the nature of traditional and emerging risks which could be physical or psychosocial, and their interaction according to different health care settings (hospitals, long term care facilities and home care), age, gender, and educational level.
(2) To identify differentiated effects of risks exposure on mental health (stress, burnout and depression), physical health (MSD, occupational diseases), work ability, and withdrawal from the organisation/employment, according to the type of health care setting, age, gender and educational level.
(3) To compare the evolution of workers health according to the level of risks exposure, during a one-year follow-up in order to identify vulnerable groups.
(4) To assess employability and work ability of workers among stayers (workers who remained in the organisation) and leavers (workers who left their employer to work elsewhere or to stop working) during the one-year follow-up.


This study will use Belgian database from the European NEXT-study (Nurses' Early Exit, The NEXT-Study was planned to investigate the reasons, circumstances and consequences surrounding premature departure from the nursing profession in ten European countries. A total of 4250 Belgian nurses from 28 institutions - working in hospital, long-term or home care have participated in the study by filling in one to three questionnaires: Q0: baseline assessment, sent to all nurses of a given setting; Q12: assessment of "stayers", one year after Q0; Qex: sent to nurses leaving a given setting during the year following Q0; and, Qex12: sent to nurses having left a setting, one year after Qex. Data comprise extensive information regarding working conditions, work organisation, social work environment, occupational and personal future perspectives, private background and psychological and physical health. Questionnaires are made of validated scales, e.g. nursing stress scale (Gray-Toft et al. 1985), burnout, work-family conflict (Netemeyer et al. 1996), effort-reward imbalance (Siegrist et al. 1996), work ability index (Tuomi and Ilmarinen 1991), SF-12 (Ware et al. 1998), but also detailed information about working schedules, job satisfaction, interpersonal relationships and nursing care organisation.
The study design allows longitudinal follow up, because questionnaires of a given individual can be matched.

WoQual is an opportunity (1) to combine the expertise of organisational psychologists, occupational physicians and public health researchers in a unique project (2) to investigate the impact of identified risks on workers health over time, focusing on health professionals in hospitals, nursing homes and home care.

Expected outcomes

Expected outcomes are related to our objectives, and include:

(1) the identification of emerging risks,
(2) the identification of vulnerable groups (female vs. male, aged vs. younger, educated vs. less skilled), and factors allowing to define vulnerability,
(3) new knowledge about the effect of psychosocial and physical risks on workers mental and physical health, according to vulnerability.
The assessment of the effects of identified risks on mental and physical health may form the basis for targeted workplace health and well-being promotion to sustain work ability and employability of diverse working groups.

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